With Farm to School month in full swing, I have been doing taste tests to highlight local foods at St. Joe’s and the New Hampton public school. I started with doing a taste test of roasted pumpkin seeds using seeds from St. Joe’s school garden. From there I progressed to doing a variety of bell peppers and hummus at the public school. Once I had done my first taste tests at both the school I’m serving at, I decided to get a little more ambitious. One day, I decided it would be a great idea to do a kale chips taste test at the public school for the entire elementary and middle school! Although all of the taste tests I did have gone pretty well, there were some lessons I learned along the way….
1. Kids will say “I don’t like it” even if its something you know they have never tried before.These kids are the hardest to get to because once they have made up their minds about something, it’s very unlikely they will change their minds. However, this is more applicable to the younger kids. The older grades are very brave tasters!
2. Once kids have seen their friends try something and like it, they are more willing to try it. I found this was so true for the kale chips. Many of the younger ones refused to try them, but a few of their friends were brave tasters, and that made them want to try it too.
3. Many kids have not seen or tasted the food you are letting them try, so it is a good idea to have a visual representation for them. Again with the kale, many kids had never seen or heard about kale. There were a few who said they have had kale chips and loved them, which was awesome! For the pre-schoolers, I went around to each of them letting them see and touch the kale in it’s natural form, and they LOVED that.
4. Always make sure there is enough! I ran into this problem at the public school a few times, where I had not prepped enough for all the grades that were participating in the taste test. For the grades who missed out, I just rescheduled to do it another day for just them. I found it is much easier to split taste tests over a few days, breaking up the grades, instead of trying to do the whole school. This was especially hard with the kale chips since I had to prep and bake them myself on the day of! However, for the cheese curd taste test, it worked perfectly! It just depends on the type of food!
5. Don’t take it personally if a kid does not feel up to to trying something. While it is good for kids to expand their palettes and try new things, it is never a good idea to force at kid to try something. From what I have seem many kids are reluctant to try certain kinds of foods, but that doesn’t mean they never will. Some kids who didn’t try something one day, are eager to try the next food when they see all of their friends enjoying the food I bring in.
It has been so much fun seeing the kids get excited when I am in the cafeteria doing a taste test, I am looking forward to doing many more throughout the school year!